Search warrants executed for drug searches in separate cases
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Two men arrested by police last month are now charged with violating local drug laws. Both men have previous convictions for unlawful possession of illegal drugs.
The two men are Nathan Upulasi and Vito Lemau and they made their initial appearances in court last month, where they waived their rights to preliminary examinations.
Upulasi was arrested when police executed the search warrant on a vehicle and on his person in Malaeimi, while a second search warrant was executed on a vehicle in Fagatogo, where police also discovered drugs, and the driver of the vehicle, later identified as Lemau was arrested and is now being charged.
The two defendants appeared in High Court last week for arraignments where they entered not guilty pleas to all the charges against them. A pretrial conference is set for Sept. 24th.
Upulasi, who owns the vehicle where drugs, drug paraphernalia and money were allegedly found and in his possession, is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine with intent to distribute and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, both felonies. His cash bond has been set in the amount of $20,000.
Lemau, who was the driver of another vehicle, is charged with one count each of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five nor more than ten years and a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $20,000, or both. Cash bond for Lemau is $5,000.
According to the government case, on July 12, 2020 around 10:30 a.m police officers executed a search warrant on a pickup truck parked in front of a store in Malaeimi.
Police approached the driver of the vehicle, who was later identified as Nathan Upulasi, and informed him about the search warrant and asked him to exit the vehicle. There was also another male individual inside Upulasi’s vehicle, who was instructed to exit the vehicle for a body search.
The male individual, who was also named in the affidavit, was let go by police after he was searched and interviewed at the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS). Nothing was found on him during the body search. However, he was asked before being let go about why he was with Upulasi when police executed the search warrant.
The male, who is a carpenter, told police that Upulasi picked him up from his home in Vaitogi to fix Upulasi’s mother’s house. And, when he entered Upulasi’s vehicle, he smelled a strong odor of marijuana inside the vehicle. When he asked Upulasi about the strong smell, Upulasi smiled and said to him, “It’s the stuff for my workers.
He further told police that he actually saw stuff inside Upulasi’s vehicle. When police asked the passenger what did he see, the passenger replied that it was ice (aisa).
The passenger is also alleged to have told police that before they were approached by police, they had gone to Taputimu to deliver methamphetamine and marijuana to another person; and that the person had bought $100 worth of marijuana and meth from Upulasi while they were there.
He told police that he had seen a lot of methamphetamine, marijuana and money inside Upulasi’s vehicle and his home in Ottoville. He had also noticed many vehicles and people coming to Upulasi’s residence every time he went to fix Upulasi’s mother’s house; and one time was told by Upulasi not to say anything about people coming to his house to pick up their supplies.
“I asked Upulasi what supplies he was talking about, and he smiled and told me that it was meth and marijuana,” the passenger told police.
A body search was also conducted on Upulasi and his vehicle was searched at the TPS.
When a police officer opened the rear passenger side door of the vehicle, he observed under the passenger side seat a pouch when opened was found to contain money and a small baggie containing white crystalline substance along with other items.
The police officer pointed to the pouch and asked Upulasi who owned it, and Upulasi replied, “I have no idea who owns it.”
Upon retrieval of the items, officers found a large glass pipe containing a thick crystalline substance, two small baggies containing crystalline substance, two cut up straws containing a crystalline residue, 12 empty baggies in various sizes and $3,859 in cash mainly in $20 bills.
The crystalline substance was tested and was found positive for methamphetamine.
After completing the search of Upulasi’s vehicle, the search then moved to his residence where 4 straws and two glass pipes containing methamphetamine were discovered. Another vehicle belonging to Upulasi was also searched, but nothing was found inside. The drugs were later tested, and were positive for methamphetamine.
(Upulasi was convicted for unlawful possession of illegal drugs and prohibited firearms several years ago.)
Around 4:45 p.m on the same day, a pickup truck was observed and stopped by police in the Fagatogo area. The driver of the vehicle was later identified as Vito Lemau, the defendant in this matter.
Police approached Lemau and informed him about the search warrant. When a physical search was conducted on Lemau’s person, a small baggie and a glass pipe containing crystalline substance were discovered in a pocket of his pants.
In his statement to police after being informed of his constitutional rights, Lemau stated he found the pipe containing crystalline substance in front of an Asian store at his village. He said he picked it up and put it inside his pocket, but the small baggie was given to him by his best friend.
When police asked Lemau about his friend who allegedly gave him the small baggie containing meth, Lemau refused to reveal his friend’s name to police. He only told police that it had been two months since his friend supplied him with drugs. Sometimes he said, he borrows drugs and pays for it later when he has money.
Lemau was sentenced to 5 years probation by the High Court in 2013, after being convicted of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, and was ordered to serve a period of detention of 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
However, the court ordered him to serve only 15 month of his period of detention, while the remaining period of detention was stayed until further order of the court.